Late Sunday, off the coast of Cyprus, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs captured the hijacked oil tanker Morning Glory from Libyan rebels. "No one was hurt tonight when U.S. forces, at the request of both the Libyan and Cypriot governments, boarded and took control of the commercial tanker Morning Glory, a stateless vessel seized earlier this month by three armed Libyans," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby. President Obama authorized the raid just after 10 p.m. on Sunday.
U.S. forces will escort the ship back to a port controlled by Libya's central government, which is fighting various factions for possession of the country's vast oil reserves.
The story of the Morning Glory is complicated and slightly madcap, but with serious implications for Libya and Europe, which gets oil from the country via a pipeline to Italy. On March 1, the North Korea-flagged ship turned off its satellite transponder and a week later turned up in the eastern Libyan port of Es Sider, which is controlled by a rebel militia that is trying to sell oil from the region for its own profit. On March 10, the tanker left port carrying 234,000 barrels of oil.
If breakaway regions are allowed to sell oil on their own, the Libyan government will quickly go bankrupt. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan ordered the Morning Glory stopped, even if it meant sinking the vessel. With Libya's navy essentially nonexistent and its air force embroiled in its own infighting, the militia Zeidan sent out to stop the tanker failed. Parliament then sacked Zeidan, who subsequently fled to Germany. On March 13, North Korea revoked the Morning Glory's registration, making it a stateless vessel.
Contraband oil is harder to sell than you might think. Libya could still descend into civil war, as various militias battle for resources and influence. But now at least the rebels in the oil-rich east know the risks of trying to use a heavily watched and coveted international commodity as a weapon. Peter Weber
Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who is embroiled in multiple investigations into his ethics and spending, apparently made a "plea" to executives at the American Petroleum Institute last year to submit candidates for open EPA positions, BuzzFeed News reports. Pruitt's eyebrow-raising call came just a month after he started leading the agency, with the manager of federal government affairs at the oil company ConocoPhillips writing to an EPA aide in March 2017: "I understand that Administrator Pruitt met with the API executives last week and he made a plea for candidates to fill some of the regional director positions within the agency. One of our employees has expressed interest. He is polishing up his resume. Where does he need to send it?"
The emails were obtained as part of the Sierra Club's Freedom of Information Act request, and they also show that the ConocoPhillips manager, Kevin Avery, eventually emailed the EPA back "offering the resumes of an interested ConocoPhillips employee, as well as an oil industry veteran and personal friend of one of the company's executives," BuzzFeed News writes.
None of these candidates ultimately landed at the EPA, although the Sierra Club's executive director, Michael Brune, expressed outrage that there was ever the possibility in the first place. "This is Scott Pruitt trying to outsource the job to protect our air and water to the exact people responsible for polluting them," he said.
Kim Estes, who was one of the people whose resumes was passed along by Avery, justified his inclusion by arguing that the administration was "looking outside the box."
"I am not in the box at all," Estes, who offers consultations on environmental health and emergency concerns through the Estes Group LLC, told BuzzFeed News. "I'm somebody different. I'm not a Washington, D.C., insider." Jeva Lange
Americans largely think President Trump is a "strong and decisive leader" — but that doesn't mean they like him.
New data from a June Gallup poll shows that about half of Americans think Trump is intelligent and able to bring about necessary change, while smaller proportions of people find him honest, trustworthy, or likable. Fewer than one-third feel the president "works well with both parties in Washington to get things done."
Fewer and fewer people are saying that Trump keeps his promises, dropping from 62 percent in February to 47 percent in June, but performance-related traits are consistent with his overall ratings, in the 40 percent range. Forty-five percent of those polled likely agreed when Trump called himself a "very stable genius," perceiving him as someone who "understands complex issues."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, evaluations of Trump are split down the party line. Among Democrats or people who lean Democratic, Trump's supposedly "very good brain" got the highest score: Thirty percent of them agreed he is intelligent. Wide majorities of Democrats didn't find many other attractive qualities in Trump, with only 8 percent agreeing that he has chosen good Cabinet members and 10 percent considering him "a person you admire." Republicans, on the other hand, had positive perceptions of the president overall. Eight in 10 say Trump cares about their needs, and 75 percent feel he can manage the government effectively.
The opioid crisis has been steadily growing more dire for years, and new evidence has surfaced suggesting there are unexpected consequences even to treating the harmful addiction epidemic. CNN reported Monday that more and more young children are being unintentionally exposed to buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction.
Between 2007 and 2016, over 11,000 calls were made to U.S. poison control centers regarding children's exposure to the drug, a study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday revealed. Eighty-six percent of those calls were about children under 6 years old.
Buprenorphine is "never prescribed" for children that young, and poses "a significant risk" to them, said Henry Spiller, one of the authors of the study. While 89 percent of the cases in the study concerned unintentional exposure, Spiller notes that intentional use is especially common among adolescents, with the intent of intoxication or even suicide.
The rate of exposure to buprenorphine almost doubled over the course of the study. With an increasing number of people misusing prescription opioids or otherwise battling addiction, misuse of treatment drugs like buprenorphine is likely to rise even more in the coming years.
The study shows that even the most well-intentioned methods for curbing the opioid epidemic can be harmful to "those who are most vulnerable," said Dr. Jason Kane, an associate professor of pediatrics and critical care with the University of Chicago. Read more at CNN. Shivani Ishwar
The biggest soccer news right now has nothing to do with the World Cup.
In a moment definitely stolen from a rejected early-2000s Disney movie, a kangaroo invasion delayed a soccer game in Australia for more than half an hour Sunday, per The West Australian. The marsupial easily cleared the fence around the field, lounged in front of the goal, and even stopped a few balls kicked his way.
— CapitalFootball (@CapitalFootball) June 24, 2018
The very down-under incident happened during a National Premier League game between Australia's two best women's teams, says The Associated Press. The Socceroo's first appearance delayed kickoff for the second half, and his return paused the game again. One team's coach got in a truck and eventually steered the kangaroo off the field for good — but not before a Kangaroo Jack/Air Bud crossover was born. Kathryn Krawczyk
Immigrants may have to choose either family detention or separation with new Trump administration proposal
Immigrant parents detained at the border could soon face a difficult choice: be placed in a tent city to await the asylum process as a family, or relinquish custody of their children to the government.
Two sources familiar with the plan told McClatchy that President Trump's administration is putting together a proposal for allowing immigrants to make this choice, in a hasty attempt to patch up holes left in Trump's executive order. The president last week signed an order to no longer require families to be separated while seeking asylum in the U.S., but his administration is still seeking to challenge a law prohibiting child migrants from being detained for more than 20 days at a time. After that time is up, parents will have to choose whether to keep their children with them in detention centers, or have the Department of Health and Human Services place them with a U.S.-based family member or sponsor.
The executive order moved to detain families together, but put no time frame on how long immigrants might need to be held in camps on military bases before their asylum requests are processed. McClatchy notes that only 20 percent of asylum requests were eventually granted in 2017, and only 15 percent have been approved this year. Families seeking asylum would be held a minimum of six weeks, and likely much longer, reports Vox.
Proponents of giving parents a choice in their child's fate say it could give more flexibility and speed asylum cases along. Others say it's not a fair solution and that it's coercive to force parents to make such a choice. Read more at McClatchy. Summer Meza
There is a creeping feeling at the State Department that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not be a marked improvement over his widely disliked predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who departed almost two months ago, Politico reports. "Pompeo at least has a more open process," said former State Department official Ilan Goldenberg. "You're not hearing as much that everything goes through policy planning or the secretary won't talk to anybody."
Still, Pompeo's lack of pushback against President Trump's demands has left some staffers "worried that he won't defend the department's interests," Politico writes. Staffers were watching, for example, when Pompeo didn't argue at a congressional hearing against Trump's attempts to cut their funding by approximately 30 percent. Officials are also concerned about where Pompeo will stand on Trump's nomination of Ronald Mortensen as assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration — a man Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has branded unfavorably as a "virulent opponent of immigration."
"People are still hopeful about Pompeo," said the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, Ronald Neumann. "But they're getting a dose of reality." Added Goldenberg: "It's a low bar because of how terrible Tillerson was on all of these things." Read more about Pompeo's reception in the department at Politico. Jeva Lange
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) had Republicans up in arms when she called for her supporters to physically harass White House officials. But even Waters' own party isn't necessarily on her side.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted a calm response to Waters' message Monday, calling instead for measured responses to President Trump's "lack of civility."
In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea. https://t.co/vlpqOBLK4R
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) June 25, 2018
Waters channeled America's recent habit of confronting Trump officials at restaurants at a rally Saturday, telling supporters to "create a crowd" and "push back" if they see Cabinet members in public. Republicans including The View co-host Meghan McCain, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), and Donald Trump Jr. all predictably fired back. So did the president, again using his "low IQ" insult for Waters.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
But Pelosi's response was rare, tweeted political journalist Yashar Ali. CNN's congressional correspondent Manu Raju broke down why Pelosi had to tiptoe in her response to the Congressional Black Caucus member and fellow Californian:
And Pelosi being careful not to alienate a veteran CBC member, potential committee chair (if Dems take House), and member of same delegation https://t.co/UN50YP8Ofb
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 25, 2018
You could call that thinking ahead — or maybe just politics. Kathryn Krawczyk